This has been a bit of a banner international match period for Napoli players. With the exception of a shaky performance from Gokhan Inler for Switzerland, Napoli's players have generally done very, very well when called upon by their nations this week.
None have done better than Marek Hamsik. Days after playing a vital role in Slovkia's huge home win against Spain, Hamsik scored a second half brace and had one of the key passes in the buildup to Slovakia's third goal as they went on the road and beat Belarus 3-1. Hamsik was again ascendant today, truly dictating play and was the source of everything good that Slovakia had going in attack.
With so many questions swirling around Hamsik early in the season, seeing a match like this serves as a good statement as to how far he's come. Many people believed that he could no longer perform at his best, a belief brought about as Hamsik struggled with form and fitness in the second half of last season after he could never quite shake his second leg injury of the season. Now, after his recent surge and today's goals, any lingering concerns over Hamsik's form can be laid to rest.
Hamsik isn't the only Napoli player who's been scoring. On Friday, Dries Mertens bagged a brace of his own as Belgium tore apart Andorra by a final score of 6-0. While Mertens scored the last two goals of the match long after Anodrra were beaten, he started and played a large role of his own for Belgium, using penetrating runs and quality passing to help pin Andorra back and put Belgium in full control of the match.
Mertens has been in top-notch form for Belgium in recent months, first performing well in the leadup to the World Cup, playing a key role during the team's time in Brazil, and now he's scored four goals in three matches since then. While Mertens' form for his club can be a little stop-start at times, he's rarely less than excellent for Belgium.
Elsewhere, Gonzalo Higuain got half an hour off the bench in smoggy Beijing as Argentina was downed 2-0 by Brazil. Higuain did relatively well, but Argentina were very poor on the day, unable to put together much of a cohesive attack as Brazil just sat back, waited for Argentina to lose possession, and launched vicious counter attacks through Neymar and Willian. Diego Tardelli scored a brace for Brazil, scoring his first goals for his nation, making good on the trust shown on him lately, with the three caps he's gotten under new manager Dunga standing as the first he's gotten since 2010.
Rafael Cabral watched that whole match from the bench, as did Camilo Zuniga as Colombia tore up El Salvador 3-0 at Red Bull Arena in New Jersey. Given the easier opposition, Jose Pekerman elected to rest Zuniga and trie out Santiago Arias at right back, and given the one-way-traffic nature of the match, Zuniga's quality and experience were never needed. Also watching from the bench was Raul Albiol, as Spain took out some frustration on Luxemborg to the tune of a 4-0 beating.
It's hard to ask for a lot more from Napoli's players performance-wise than we've gotten, especially the massive exploits of Marek Hamsik this week. Hopefully he can bring some of that magic back with him as Napoli prepare to face Inter Milan next weekend.